Well, the world’s been turned on its head—Le Coin was better than Fifth Avenue. Four gorgeous voluptuous girls—I would have liked all four of them but by now I was too drunk and I only had 70 euros left—the exact cut 20 to house, and 50 to girl. One more beer and that was it, too late. Suddenly I think in future I will stay in the IBIS again, rather than the Max!
I am quite tempted to stay at the Ibis Midi on my next trip. It will save me the taxi fare to & from the Max, and with a few preparatory drinks in me I won’t mind the long walk up to Cine Paris and Fifth Avenue, and the long walk back, so much perhaps. That would mean I could pop into Gare du Midi every day for a Panos and sight of Dounia, and a paper, and those lovely pizzas, and sometimes a late night chicken & chips in that restaurant next to L’Orient Express. Just the Max is SO cheap at the moment; even with two-way taxi fare it is still cheaper than the Ibis. So on the homeward Eurostar and I put my earphones in, and what is the first song? ‘Heroes’. So apt. Lola. Icona Pop. Night Ride & Sunrise (Sibelius).
Opposite the hotel, I see a Café Central. Oh Jesus, it’s just occurred to me, they are going to go on a trawl of all the strip clubs and girlie bars of Schillerstraße aren’t they? Actually, that is quite good, as it means I will not be the only man when I walk in as I usually am, and they can take all the girls’ attention away from me. I should actually FOLLOW them from club to club! They can be my cover! They are putting a bet on tonight’s Scotland v Poland Euro qualifying match: a 6-5 win for Scotland. They are all ordering pizza on the ipad on the bar; this place is going to reek of mouthwatering pizza any minute now; yet another reason to move on, even with just one beer inside me. How atmospheric the old Ibis bars used to be. There was no need to change. It wasn’t broken, they should not have fixed it. It is broken now.
As always, the eternal mystery and regret that the Ibis ripped out all their beautiful, atmospheric old dark wood bars and replaced them with the cold, hard, modernist mediocrities. The bars are now a place you want to get out of as fast as possible. Their stools are appalling; so hard to get onto even. Designed for their look and not for comfort, like everything else about the bar. The beer, Maxlrainer, is quite unpleasant, and not even really cold. As I suspected, the sexy little barmaid from earlier has left, replaced by a dour unsmiling black man. The reception staff also gone too. Now the dilemma: do I stay at this hotel on the way back next week, just to see that sexy little barmaid again, or try one of those cheap (relatively) hotels in Schillerstraβe? Oh no, a bunch of 6 or 8 Scottish lads have just entered the bar. Oh god the groom’s just arrived, dressed in a Bride to Be sash. My luck, a Scottish stag party arrive in the bar, just at the same time as me.
I forced myself to have my one (free) beer in the Ibis; forced myself to have a small beer in L’Orient Express; it was a struggle. Thought I was going to have a heart attack. Then I forced myself up to Fifth Avenue, passing Beatrice in the road as I went; I didn’t see her as the sun was blazing but she called me back. Fifth Avenue was a bit better than recent visits, but I no longer feel comfortable there. I prefer the street environment. Prefer to take Beatrice into Jimmy’s Bar for a “looza peche”. From Fifth back to Ciné Paris and at least one really good film; the inevitable Anna Polina in The Advocate. Went back to see Beatrice again; tried Empire at 9.30 but it was too early apparently; then up to Gare du Nord. The Sexyworld videokabins are actually very very good, and the window girls are fantastic. The street girls were actually fantastic too. Summer is the time to come. Now I wait for my chicken & chips in the Lunch Factory next to L’Orient Express. It is 22 after midnight. An enjoyable evening in Brussels.
The Ibis does have an MTV channel, but it only shows music videos between 2am and 5am in the morning, when they think nobody is watching so it will be all right. The internet connection is excellent, and the beer in the bar is ice cold. I am glad to be back in the Ibis.
Back in the Ibis bar, midnight, quite busy. No, the place is no good for people watching, but I love just watching all the buses and trams rolling in and out of the station opposite. Something calming about it. Already I can’t wait to come back, and I still have another day and a half to go. And I’ve done nothing. Yet I am not bored. I am calm and at ease.